Monday, January 1, 2018

Christmas Games part three - Sharp Practice

December 27th saw the latest episode in our exploration of the fortunes of the light company of the Borsetshire Regiment during the Peninsular War.  This time the Light Company faced a major French assault.  This was the British player's briefing:

The comforting sounds of the familiar morning routine of the British army all around him, Major Horace Markham, a contemplative pipe in hand, peered into the pre-dawn murk. The frontier village was stout enough but it was not a location he would wish to defend against a larger French force. The sooner he could march the light company back to the safety of the rocky heights and beyond to Wellesley’s army, the happier he would be.

Markham’s mind wandered back to his hurried briefing the previous morning. Lt Colonel Pargeter had begun by apologising for sending him on a Captain’s errand.  Only a company was required but General Wellesley wanted to get Captain Elliott and his rocket detachment out from under his feet and Elliott was senior to Captain Archer of the Borsetshires’ light company.  As this was clearly a job for the lights, Markham must take command.

Seeing Markham’s confusion at this rambling introduction, Pargeter had hurried on. An exploring officer, an Irishman by the name of Hugh Cairns, was to be met at the village of Rebolosa and escorted back across the rocky hills, back into the bosom of the army. For reasons of military convenience, a detachment of rocket troops was to be attached to the force.

The rocketeers had proved excessively wearing during the march.  Knowing the country, Markham had insisted on their taking only pack mules and leaving their carts and wagons behind.  Even so the light company had been delayed by the inexperienced gunners and had only reached Rebolosa at nightfall.    

Ron took on the role of British commander:


Major Horace Markham, Level II leader (Red 1)
Corporal Brown, Level I leader (Red 2)
Two groups of 8 Light Company in line, muskets

Captain Archer, Level III leader (Red 3)
Two groups of 8 Light Company in line, muskets

Lieutenant Smythe, Level II leader (Red 4)
One group of 6 95th Rifles, rifles

Sergeant Goodison, Level I leader (Red 5)
One group of 6 95th Rifles, rifles

Captain Elliott, Level I leader (Red 6)
One group of 5 Royal Horse Artillery, rockets 

Jamie and Andy ran the French:


Colonel Paul Remillard, Level III leader (Blue 1)
Sergeant Boutin, Level I leader (Blue 2)
Three groups of 8 Line Infantry, muskets

Captain Laroche, Level II leader (Blue 3)
Two groups of 8 Line Infantry, muskets

Lieutenant Didier Delabord, Level I leader (Blue 4)
One group of 8 Dragoons, carbines and sabres

Lieutenant Loisier, Level II leader (Blue 5)
One group of 6 Voltigeur Skirmishers, muskets

Sergeant Dalembert, Level I leader (Blue 6)
One group of 6 Voltigeur Skirmishers, muskets

Captain van Niekirk, Level II leader (Blue 7)
Two groups of 8 Nassau light infantry, muskets
One group of 8 Nassau grenadiers, muskets

Captain Etienne Chouxfleur, Level II leader (Blue 8)
One group of 8 Hussars, Scouting Cavalry, sabres

In the photo below the red star shows the  British exit point through the mountains.  The red oval surrounds the wagon that marked the British Deployment Point.  The French Deployment Point was on the edge of the table to the right of the blue square.

As the Borsetshires rushed to their posts, the first French infantry formed up in an open column near the road.

Some Voltigeurs arrived and advanced along the road...

Under the direction of Captain Elliott the Light Rocket Battery hastily deployed between the large house and the barn.  They launched a first rocket but it fell short and exploded harmlessly.

Meanwhile, Captain Archer had started to deploy half of the company to stop a French advance down Rebolosa's main street whilst Major Markham took the other half of the company to escort Cairns to the mountains.

Archer deploys into line.  Is Markham (in the background) preparing
to leave the rest of the company in the lurch?

Archer's men come under fire from the advancing French voltigeurs who are backed up by Delabord's Dragoons.

Meanwhile something of a traffic jam is developing on the French right....

As the French columns converged on Archer's small line, voltigeurs supporting on their flanks, the RHA fired again.  Once more the rocket fell short but this time it fell within shrapnel range of Sergeant Goodison's riflemen!

On the roadway, Archer's men were charged by Delabord's dragoons.  

Sadly for Delabord, his men had not quite reached the point of contact when the Borsetshires let loose an impressive volley of musketry.  At this point I made an error in applying the rules.  One group of the Borsetshires was routed but so was the group of Dragoons.  The result should have been different with the shock and casualties on the British side being shared equally between the fighting and supporting groups.

Either way, though, it had been a small victory for the British, although their Force Morale was falling faster than that of the French.

At this point Ron began to try and extract his forces from the tightening trap.  Although the Dragoons had been driven off on the right and seemed unlikely to bother him again, on the left French pressure was beginning to tell and the Hussars threatened a wide outflanking sweep.  The narrow main street of Rebolosa was soon thronging with confused British soldiers.

Menaced by Voltigeurs, the rocket troops withdrew.

It had taken Lt Chouxfleur an age to get his hussars through the wheat fields (not that they were bad going but suddenly Andy was unable to roll anything higher than a two on his movement dice).  

Faced with a choice of dashing for the higher ground and perhaps safety or standing and firing at the approaching horsemen, Lt Smythe of the Rifles made the wrong call.

The brief fusillade was ineffective and Smythe's men were badly mauled.  The lieutenant himself fell senseless and had to be dragged away by the few survivors. 

Although Major Markham, having escorted Cairns to the safety of the mountains, returned with one group of infantry, the collapse of the British position was already underway.  Force Morale was down to four, with the loss of one command card resulting.

As the British attempted to push through the village to safety, the first group of Voltigeurs entered Rebolosa...

... only to find themselves scattered by rampaging livestock!

The damage to French pride and cohesion was minor, however, and further casualties to Sergeant Goodison's rifles tipped the balance. British Force Morale reached zero and the retreat turned into a rout.

So the Borsetshires have taken a very bloody nose at Rebolosa.  Who will manage to escape the clutches of Johnny Frog?  Perhaps only the need for Lt Chouxfleur to rally his Hussars gives any cause for hope?

I think there's a case for the next scenario being a chase across the high moorland as the French continue the pursuit of Major Cairns.  I shall have to give this further thought.

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